Monday, October 3, 2011

Seven Basic Guidelines for Grantwriting

Looking for grant funding to help support your work? These guidelines will help you to use your time wisely as you evaluate your options:
  1. Do a comprehensive fundraising plan first. Have an approved case statement that includes mission, goals, objectives, target population, agency history and achievement, organization budget, and project budget. You can use this to cut and paste into every proposal. And be sure your agency fundraising plan includes a diversity of funding sources including individual contributions, earned income, and grants.
  2. Do your research. Your initial research and preparation are as important as the actual writing of the grant. You don't want to waste your time writing a proposal that has little prospect of being funded. Be sure that the foundation gives grants in your geographic area, has goals and objectives that are a match for your organization, accepts unsolicited proposals, funds at a level that is within an appropriate scale for your organization, and gives the  kind of funding you need (whether it be operating support, scholarships, or capital campaigns). You can search foundations databases at these places: CVNL -, The Foundation Center -, Volunteer Center of Sonoma County -
  3. Do a cost analysis. Weigh the benefits of receiving a project grant against the extra time and resources that will be required from you and your staff before you make your decision to apply. Sometimes grants end up costing more than they are worth.
  4. Do know that most grants are project-based. The majority of available grants are for defined, time-limited projects with identifiable goals and outcomes, rather than ongoing operating expenses - although you can budget a limited amount of money for administrative costs within project grants.
  5. Do assume any grant funding will be for one year only. It's a rare funder that provides continuing support over time. This does not mean you cannot apply again - in fact, you should do so, but never make presumptions that your project once funded will always be funded.
  6. Don't fabricate. Never fashion a grant specifically for a granting agency that does not actually reflect the work of your organization. It is counter-productive - and unethical.
  7. Do communicate effectively. Be precise and concise. Speak honestly and passionately. Use bullets, charts, and diagrams for readability. Find wording that is appropriate to the stated priorities. Match your goals to those of the funder. And be sure to have someone else read and edit before you submit.
Don't make the mistake of expecting grant funding to solve all your financial problems. Grants are a great way to fund specific projects, or to jump-start a new approach - but they only work well hand in hand with a solid financial plan that focuses on mission impact and the development of sustainable and diverse funding support.